Identifying and valuing our unschoolers' interests
by Beverley Paine
I think where a lot of us parents go wrong is that we value our children's interests differently to how they do. Often they have interests we don't know about or 'see' because to us they don't look or feel like interests, as we know 'interests'. Or they don't align with something we consider 'educational'.
My daughter taught me this very potent lesson when she was 12. As a kid I loved everything about libraries, but especially the Dewey classification system. I loved the fact that books were ordered and individual ones could be found easily. At about age 12 my daughter used to use her pocket money to buy TV Weekly. I never really understood why, I only ever read magazines like that sitting in the doctor's waiting room. I didn't value TV Weekly and truth be told, I thought (and probably expressed) that she was wasting her money.
Anyway, we also had an extensive collection of books and one day I suggested she and I organise them in categories or alphabetical order on the shelves. She declined, and that was okay. But I did see it as a missed opportunity because I was wearing my 'teacher' brain at the time. (It took me forever to deschool that brain!) Sometime that week she got another copy of her favourite magazine and she filed it away on the shelf in her bedroom and that's when I noticed she had already organised her personal bookshelf - she was, after all, her mother's daughter!
I felt a bit silly about thinking I needed to help her develop a skill she had all along. But it was enough of a realisation to prompt another, more important insight for me: that buying and reading and following the information in the TV Weekly was one of her 'interests'. I'd dismissed it as a fad, her succumbing to consumer or peer pressure. I didn't value the kind of programs TV Weekly discussed. I didn't value that kind of magazine. But my daughter was getting something out of it, it was meeting one or more needs she had, needs that my bias was blinding me from noticing.
Sometimes people say my youngest grandchild has too many too cars. I'm the kind of person that carefully looks after my belongings, so when I see him throwing them around the yard, crashing them together, burying them in the dirt, generally trashing them in his boisterous play, it irks me. But it doesn't stop me from giving him more toy cars to play with. He's learning what he needs to learn from that play, from those objects. I don't approve of how he plays, but it isn't my role to do that - it's my role to support and enable HIS play. As it was with my daughter's interest in TV Weekly.
I think it helps to widen our concept of what 'interests' are when it comes to our kids and unschooling.
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